Ricky Burdett speaks at the CityLab 2016 summit in Miami. C2 Photography

Can cities around the world correct course?

MIAMI—By 2050, an expected 2.5 billion people around the world will be moving to cities. And these numbers don’t even account for the impending migration of communities who are most at risk from climate change. The question of what form and shape global cities will take to absorb future residents was at the heart of a presentation by Ricky Burdett, the director of LSE Cities, at The Atlantic’s CityLab 2016 summit in Miami Monday.

So far, the picture looks bleak. Between 1990 and 2050, average population growth in 200 cities around the world is expected to reach 300 percent. But the average footprint—the actual physical form of the city—will expand by nearly 500 percent. “Which means that density is dropping,” Burdett said. “In terms of environmental sustainability, that’s aptly critical.”

Around 90 percent of this new urban growth will be concentrated in Asia and Africa, regions where informal structures are already a staple in big and small cities alike. That’s where the need for smart growth interventions is the greatest, says Burdett. India’s Smart Cities Challenge is one high-profile example of an innovative approach. In it, over 100 Indian cities have submitted proposals aimed at tackling municipal problems, hoping to win a slice of an expected $15 billion total to eventually implement their plans. Twenty proposals have been awarded funding so far.

Whether or not India’s cities will be adequately prepared for the future remains to be seen. But what’s significant is that urban development is now being regarded as a priority in that country, and possible solutions are being considered in a thoughtful, thorough manner. That’s the first step to correcting course for cities around the world.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo-illustration of several big-box retail stores.
    Equity

    After the Retail Apocalypse, Prepare for the Property Tax Meltdown

    Big-box retailers nationwide are slashing their property taxes through a legal loophole known as "dark store theory." For the towns that rely on that revenue, this could be a disaster.

  2. A man walks his dog on a hilltop overlooking San Francisco in the early morning hours on Mount Davidson.
    Equity

    When Millennials Battle Boomers Over Housing

    In Generation Priced Out, Randy Shaw examines how Boomers have blocked affordable housing in urban neighborhoods, leaving Millennial homebuyers in the lurch.

  3. A view of the Eiffel tower and the Paris skyline.
    Transportation

    Cities Around Paris Strike a Rare Agreement to Ban Diesel Cars

    France’s most comprehensive car ban marks an important moment of cooperation for oft-quarreling municipalities.

  4. A photo of a resident of Community First Village, a tiny-home community for people who were once living in homelessness, outside of Austin, Texas.!
    Design

    Austin's Fix for Homelessness: Tiny Houses, and Lots of Neighbors

    Community First! Village’s model for ending homelessness emphasizes the stabilizing power of social connections.

  5. A photo of a small small house in San Francisco's Noe Valley that sold for $1.8 million in 2014.
    Equity

    Why Cities Must Tackle Single-Family Zoning

    As cities wake up to their housing crises, the problems with single-family-home residential zoning will become too egregious to ignore.